Jul 27, 2018 11:02AM
● By Maleesa Johnson
When it comes to skeet shooting, Carroll senior Nick Godfrey is good...really good. How good? He is currently the highest ranked high school student in the world. It takes a little while to get that information out of him because he is pretty modest about it. In fact, we didn’t hear about it until halfway through interviewing him.
While he is now competing through a variety of different clay target organizations, he first got into the sport through Southlake Carroll Clay Target Team. The program started in 2013 with a small group of students. Several were already shooting with outside organizations and noticed that area high schools were forming teams. They decided to bring it before the school board and got the program approved.
“We were one of the first five teams in the area,” Carroll Liaison Brandi Hunt says.
One year after the program’s formation, Godfrey hesitantly attended an informational meeting.
“I had no idea what it really was,” he says. “My dad convinced me to go to the meeting, and I kind of wanted to see what it was all about.”
Now closing out his senior year, Godfrey has been selected as team captain for the past two years. Even in his sophomore year, he served as skeet captain. From his accomplishment on the team to his accolades nationally and internationally, there is no doubt that Godfrey is happy he stumbled up that informational meeting.
"This sport has matured him more than I've ever seen before,” Hunt says. “He is wise beyond his years. He practices so much, and he's not just out there practicing; he is coaching the team half of the time. Whenever he is out there with other students, he is helping them."
How It All Works
While the average Texan has probably handled a gun at some point, the ins and outs of clay target shooting may still be foreign. There are variants from American to Olympic and disciplines within each of those. If you thought it was the same as just yelling “Pull!” at your buddy on the ranch, it is so much more complex.
As for the Carroll Clay Target Team, they compete under the Scholastic Clay Target Program (SCTP). The SCTP essentially serves the same purpose that UIL does for sports like baseball. Under the program, high school students compete in three disciplines: Skeet Shooting, Clay Targets and Trap. Teams are co-ed, and while there is a seperate portion of competitions for girls, they can also choose to compete with the boys.
"If you're the best shooter, you're the best shooter no matter what,” Hunt says.
The team has excelled in its short five years of existence. They are currently SCTP state champions and have filled the shelves with additional trophies. Most recently, the Carroll Clay Target Team has added an intermediate level, meaning seventh and eighth grade students are welcome to tryout.
"We tested the waters and it was amazing,” Hunt says. “They were so unbelievably excited about joining the program."
Freshmen are classified as junior varsity, while any grade above that is considered varsity. Tryouts are not required for high school students.
Safety Comes First
"The idea of having high schoolers with shotguns was kind of scary for some at first,” Hunt says. “But there are more accidents in football and cheerleading than anything else. There are no accidents in this sport."
Hunt isn’t exaggerating. From 2008 to 2014, there were no reported injuries in high school clay shooting, according to the USA High School Clay Target League. Godfrey reports that there have not been any incidents during his team with the team as well.
"We have a unique situation in clay target shooting versus football or baseball,” Godfrey says. “If something does go wrong, it could go very, very wrong.”
And that is why one of the main emphasises of the program is gun safety. Incoming students must take a three part safety course prior to joining the team. Additionally, they aren’t done when they are on the team. Every member retakes the course every year. Students are trained on range etiquette, gun handling and what to do in abnormal situations, such as the gun failing to fire. The second part of the course includes a range day, where students have to show that they can properly handle the gun that they own. Godfrey has helped lead these training days.
“This is the fifth year of the program and we have yet to have any incidents,” he says.
All of the Accolades
University of Texas at Austin bound, Godfrey already has quite the resume. During his junior year he earned second place in the 28 gauge category at the Junior World Championship. Back in his home state, he placed first in the same event at the Texas Skeet Shooter Association state championship, against all ages. He placed first in JV skeet shooting at state during his freshman year and the same in varsity as a sophomore.
"Skeet is really what I specialize in,” Godfrey says. “I've competed all around the country in different national level shoots and I competed in the world championship this fall."
Skeet shooting is designed more for the perfectionist types. Competitors shoot 25 targets in a round, four times. They move around a semicircle and shoot a high bird and a low bird. American Skeet Shooting is the exact same format at every tournament, so competitors know exactly what to expect and train meticulously.
That includes Godfrey. He trains five to six days a week, sometimes more depending on upcoming events. And for him, practice really makes perfect. Or at least almost as close as you can get to perfect. Last fall, Godfrey went to the world championship and placed in the top 10 of all five events he competed in, landing him the eleventh spot in the world. If adult competitors were excluded, he placed in the top five and first overall.
In the midst of traveling to tournaments and practicing 15-20 hours per week, Godfrey has managed to keep his grades high. Oh, and he achieved the rank of Eagle Scout and tutors AP physics. He will major in aerospace engineering at UT and shoot for their team. He credits his academic success, in part, to his parents.
"My parents have always stressed that school comes way before any extracurricular activity,” Godfrey says. “They said very early on that even if I'm going to the Olympics, if my grades start to slip, they'll pull me right out of it."
It turns out they didn’t have to, and we’re sure both parties are glad for it.